Friday, 4 September 2009


The heading may sound like a disaster but in fact this is a heartwarming story. The tornado in question is actually a steam locomotive pulling a very special train called "The Winton Train". The journey commemorated a series of eight train journeys that occurred seventy years ago at the outbreak of World War Two. Those trains carried hundreds of mainly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to new foster homes in Britain. They were organised by a 29 year old clerk called Nicholas Winton. The last leg of the four day route was from the port of Harwich in Essex to London's Liverpool Street Station. Today, a now 100 year old Sir Nicholas Winton was at the station in London to greet 22 of the original travellers who, along with their families ,had reinacted their earlier historic journey.

Although it is heartwarming to think that these children escaped to safety and went on to new lives in Britain it is also a sad tale as most, in not all, of these children waved farewell to their parents from the train as it departed and never saw them again. If you click on this link - here - you can read more about the 1939 journeys and today's 70th anniversary event.

I first became aware of this story when I heard that the steam locomotive "Tornado" was hauling a train from Harwich to London. This steam locomotive itself is actually a very interesting, unique engine. Rather than being a preserved and restored old engine it is actually brand new - the first steam locomotive to be built in Britain for nearly fifty years. There were 49 similar locomotives built in 1948/49 but the last one was scrapped in 1966 when the network went diesel and electric. Unlike many classes of engine not one saved - all went for scrap. Someone in 1990 had the ambitious idea to built an entirely new one from the original plans. Money was raised and over a eighteen year project the new loco 60163 "Tornado" was built. You can read about the project here.

This morning after dropping Troy Junior at school I drove to Marks Tey station in Essex. There, at 09.45, along with many other onlookers, I saw "The Winton Train" pulled by "Tornado" come through the station at speed. Here are two photos:-

It was a fantastic, albeit very brief, sight as the train hurtled passed, commemorating a very heartwarming story.


Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Heartwarming indeed.

What a beautiful train. Thank heavens someone thought to rebuild it.

Ladybird World Mother said...

I just love this story.. my mother and I were chatting about it this morning on the phone... and she was so tempted to go to Marks Tey (her nearest station) and watch it!! Unfortunately she had to go to the doctors instead... so glad you got a brief glimpse of what is definitely a slice of history now. Looking forward to watching the news later and seeing more.
Thanks for posting this. Loved it. Now going back on the links you posted. x

HelenMWalters said...

I was watching this on the news earlier. It's such an important story and, as you say, heart rending that so many of those children never saw their families again.

Troy said...

Debs - I think I read somewhere that it cost £3million whereas the originals worked out at £30,000 each. I guess that's inflation for you.

LWM - pleased to hear it wasn't your mother's head getting in the way of my camera but sorry she had to miss it.

Helen - I have missed it on the TV news so far so I hope it will be on the BBC Ten O'Clock or Regional Eastern News.

Valerie said...

Hubby would have like that, he's well into trains. It was a sad time for those youngsters who never saw their parents again.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Lovely train. We were a railway town once. Once!

DJ Kirkby said...

Wow what a thing to have been a part of even if only to wave as it went past. N3S is very jealous!

Troy said...

Valerie - the engine is your area (Severn Valley Railway) late October and early November if Hubby wants to see it.

Ken - headquarters and engineering works of the Midland Railway no less, and a lot more in later years. Now we have to buy our trains from Japan!

DJ - I was too busy photographing it for my readers to give it a wave.

Valerie said...

Thanks for the information. It has been passed on. Hubs is going to the SV Railway/Classic Cars at the beginning of October. Looks like he'll make two visits.

Anonymous said...

A lovely story and great pictures. How terribly sad it was for those children to wave goodbye to their parents. It doesn't bear thinking about.

CJ xx

Troy said...

Valerie - hope he enjoys both visits.

CJ - although we have a young child each, I think it is almost impossible to imagine being a parent waving goodbye forever like those parents had to do in Czechoslovakia.

Catharine Withenay said...

I love steam trains: there is a beauty and romance about them unparalled by other transport.

But the last week or so has reminded us of what an awful event WW2 really was, breaking up families and lives. What a shame that genocide continues and the world so often looks on and does nothing until too late.